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China-backed infrastructure in the Global South: lessons from the case of the Brazil–Peru Transcontinental Railway project

Dourado, L. (2022). China-backed infrastructure in the Global South: lessons from the case of the Brazil–Peru Transcontinental Railway project https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2022.2154204

China-backed infrastructure in the Global South: lessons from the case of the Brazil–Peru Transcontinental Railway project

In the past decade, infrastructure has become a key area of cooperation between China and the Global South. Among the cooperation initiatives, numerous cases have experienced shortcomings or have failed. Notwithstanding some efforts, the reasons why still need to be better understood. To contribute to further illuminating this issue, the present study examines approximately 2000 pages of previously undisclosed documents of one of the most ambitious projects China has been involved in, namely the Brazil–Peru Transcontinental Railway project. The main events of this case are reconstructed to explain why the Brazil–China–Peru cooperation failed to achieve its objective of producing a basic feasibility study acceptable to these three countries. It finds that the main causes were: (1) the clash between Chinese and Brazilian interests; (2) the use of poor quality standards for the development of the basic feasibility study; and (3) the Peruvian abandonment of the initiative. Therefore, this case study draws attention to the importance of accounting for and trying to conciliate all partners’ interests; it also suggests that relevant Chinese actors may need to improve their planning and feasibility studies quality standards; and, finally, it highlights the consequential role of institutional and technical capacity in host countries.

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